For the 2nd time in as many weeks TEAM MUGEN has secured a major domestic Championship title, this time the prestigious Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA (the highest formula for single-seater domestic motorsport in Japan).
Please see race report below:
TEAM MUGEN wins a SUPER FORMULA race for the first time, and driver #16 Naoki Yamamoto comes from behind to win the series championships overall.
Series name: 2013 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 7
Tournament : 2013 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 7 Suzuka
Distance: RACE1 5.807km × 20 laps (116.140km)
Distance: RACE2 5.807km × 28 laps (162.596km)
Qualifying: 2013-11-9 Sat / cloudy / Attendance 11,500 ( organizers announced )
Race: 2013-11-10 Sun / Rain / Attendance 11,000 ( organizers announced )
Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 7 (the final race in the series) was held at Suzuka Circuit. TEAM MUGEN participated with two cars in this race and Drivers, #16 Naoki Yamamoto, and #15 Takuma Sato.
Coming into this event #16 Yamamoto was ranked in 3rd position in Series Drivers Championship Ranking.
The final championship event of the season features two race, the first over 20 laps of the 5.807km circuit, and the second slightly longer at 28 laps.
Before race 1 #16 Yamamoto sat 13 points behind the series point leader; however, with the double-header event and the current points leader not available to race this event, there was still the possibility to become series champion. Also 3 extra points were on offer for each race winner at this event.
November 10 (Sun)
# 16 Yamamoto 1st (20 laps 38:52.509 / Best lap 1:55.016)
# 15 Sato 9th (20 laps 39:31.944 / Best lap 1:55.088)
Race morning started off with rain around the Suzuka district, and on the track, and Team Mugen were forced to use the 8 minute free session just before race 1 to adjust the set-up to allow for a wet surface, but with the rain almost stopped.
The team made a last minute damper and spring adjustment to the #16 Yamamoto on the dummy grid just before the formation lap and all cars started the race equipped with rain tires.
From pole position #16 Yamamoto made a good start, while #15 Sato dropped to the rear due to a poor getaway.
Trailing plumes of spray behind him #16 Yamamoto led for most of the opening lap, until over-running at the final Chicane Corner and losing one position, but he was able to rejoin the circuit without further issue.
Yamamoto proceeded to pull away from those behind him, and then took over the lead at the Hairpin Corner when the car in front, unable to deal with the screens of water caused by the adverse weather conditions, suffered mechanical problems, after which the #16 car set several best lap times in the process.
Meanwhile #15 Sato was steadily passing the machines in front of him and progressing from the rear of the field in heavily wet conditions and running at the same pace as the leading group of drivers.
#16 Yamamoto duly completed 20 laps perfectly and took the chequered flag for the race win. It was the first win for Yamamoto since he made his debut in the Japanese top formula race category in 2010. It was also the first victory for Team MUGEN since participating Japanese top formula category also in 2010.
With 2 points for two pole positions, 5 points plus the 3 bonus points for the race win, the 10 point haul from race 1 saw Yamamoto move to 2nd place in the series ranking; a tantalising 3 points off the lead, and still with race 2 to come.
# 16 Yamamoto 3rd (28 laps 50:46.480 / Best lap 1:43.682)
# 15 Sato 8th (26 laps 51:37.296 / Best lap 1:43.864)
In the 8 minutes free session before Race 2 at 2:00pm, with the rain stopped and the course starting to dry out, Team MUGEN had to this time adapt the set-up of their cars to suit dry tires with the expectation of the track surface drying out further later in the race.
For race 2 there was to be a compulsory pit stop with all four tires to be exchanged, and all the top teams, including Team MUGEN, elected to start the race with rain tires as the risk was too high to start with the dry tire.
#16 Yamamoto maintained his 2nd position from the start and this time team-mate #15 Sato also made a good start, making up a position, but unfortunately in running on at Spoon Curve he lost position back to 10th.
Track conditions were drying out rather quicker than had been expected and the machines that started the race with wet tires started to make their first pit stop immediately after the 1st lap. However, #16 Yamamoto made his pit stop after the 2nd lap which meant therefore #15 Sato had to wait until after lap 3 for his pit stop.
The race became a melee as the lower grid starters made use of their dry tires and continued to lap while the while the rain tire equipped teams were exchanging to dry tires.
After lap 10 #16 Yamamoto was positioned in 7th and #15 Sato 12th, but with some cars who had yet to make their stop out of position, 16# Yamamoto could reasonably expect to be in 3rd once all the pit stops were completed. A 3rd position finish would be enough to see Yamamoto crowned as champion but there was still drama to come.
Towards the final session of the race the rain started to fall again and mechanical trouble forced the current leader to pull out of the race leaving #16 Yamamoto to take up 2nd position with just 4 laps remaining.
As the rain became heavier all the dry tire shod cars were forced to take great care, particularly at 130R Corner where the rain was heavier than elsewhere. # 16 Yamamoto dropped to 3rd position after having to rejoin the course at the Chicane on lap 27.
#16 Yamamoto started the final lap pursued closely by higher pace lap time machines with the threat of losing his grip on the Series championship if he was to lose 3rd position.
However Yamamoto took the chequered flag and crossed the line in 3rd position just 1.122 seconds behind leader, but also with a slim lead of just 0.538 seconds over the 4th position car.
As a result Yamamoto added 3 points to his tally and his final total of 37 points brought him level on points with the previous points leader.
With the 13 points earned by Yamamoto in this final race of the series he became champion due to the regulation that the higher points earner in a race would be considered as the champion in the event of a tie.
This was not only the first time for Yamamoto to win the series championship, but also the first time for a Honda engine to power the Series Championship since Loic Duval won the 2009 championship 5 years ago.
The 8th place for #15 Sato was also the first point earned since he joined Team MUGEN.
■Comment from the director Tezuka
I would say it is great! Everybody, including us, thought there would be little chance to win the championship at the beginning of the race. However once we got double pole positions for Race 1 and 2, each of us turned our attention towards the chance to grab the championship.
We always wanted to win a race at least once during this season and we made it happen in Race 1 by making the correct decisions (very positive mind/strategy) to change the machine setting in the short time before the race. Yamamoto also maximized the setting with the machine potential to bring the victory. We also had a very tough race for race because of the variety of the conditions. Yamamoto particularly did very well in the last 3 minutes when the rain started again. Yamamoto’s driving was excellent and the result of what we have seen in how he has been developing his driving technique. Team MUGEN has also grown, with technical advice from Honda and the abundant experience of Sato. The team mechanics never gave up, and all of these came together to make the series champions. I was so impressed with Yamamoto’s driving, so please praise Yamamoto’s driving. I want him to take another challenge for next year as the first series champion of Super Formula.
I would like to express our total appreciation for the fantastic support from all our fans for Team MUGEN. Thank you very much!!